Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame

The Aboriginal and Islanders Sports Hall of Fame travelling photographic exhibition now lives at AIATSIS
The Aboriginal and Islanders Sports Hall of Fame travelling photographic exhibition now lives at AIATSIS.

Adapted from Black Gold: The Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame by Colin Tatz and Paul Tatz

Elections to halls of fame are always difficult: who goes in and who gets left out are often vexed questions. Nearly all halls of fame are in single sports, and rarely do nations have a national mechanism for recognition of the great ones across all sports. In The Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame there are no less than 219 men and women – seemingly too great a number. But it must be remembered that the achievers embrace nearly 40 sports over 140 years, albeit unevenly, with 22 members selected for athletics, 42 for Australian football, 30 for boxing and 35 for rugby league.

The Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 1994 to honour sports people who had achieved at the highest level of their chosen field. The initial membership was determined by four renowned Aboriginal sports achievers: Mark Ella, Syd Jackson, Faith Thomas and Charles Perkins, and three non-Aboriginal historians: Ted Egan, (the late) Alick Jackomos and Colin Tatz. Research and photography for the Hall as a photographic exhibition and publication was the work of Colin and Paul Tatz.

Hall of Fame updates

Since 1994, many Hall of Fame members have notched up further achievements and more great athletes have emerged. In 1999, it was recognised that Hall of Fame membership needed to be increased and the published records of its existing members updated. The 1999 selectors, or electors, were Arthur Beetson, Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, Lloyd McDermott, Mark Ella, Gary Ella, Charles Perkins, Ted Egan, Ken Edwards and Colin Tatz. George Bracken helped select the boxers, and Col Hutchinson and David Middleton – the pre-eminent statisticians in their fields – offered advice and materials on Australian footballers and rugby league players respectively. The Hall was again updated in 2009, and the new list was published by AIATSIS in a special sports edition of the Australian Aboriginal Studies Journal (2009/Number 2). It is an appendix to the introductory article.

Membership Criteria

Hall of Fame membership is confined to those who have represented Australia of their state or territory, or who have held a national record or title, or who have achieved a notable ‘first’ or some distinguished performance, or who, in the case of Australian football, were acclaimed senior players. A further criterion was the person’s contribution to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identity. The criteria for selection have been tough from the outset. There are no sentimental selections, and there is no sense of ‘talking up’ achievements that are simply not there. In some sports, where there are no national or international competitions, the number of games played, or medals won, became the criteria. Only three or four of the present members did not reach these standards. They warranted election because of other attributes and achievements, or their achievements were of a breakthrough nature. In some instances, they were the first Aboriginal people to break colour barriers, or their enormous talent was suppressed by the authorities. Contribution to Aboriginal identity is not itself a sporting quality, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel strongly about what some sport s achievers have done for their people, either at the height of their careers or after.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander achievement is different. The standards for achievement are high indeed, and there are no ‘soft’ inductees. However, unlike non-Aboriginal achievers, there were – and sometimes there remain – seemingly insurmountable obstacles arising from a separate legal status, of living in segregated reserves, missions and settlements, and of being members of a society treated all too often with disregard and disrespect. To get to the top, they also had to beat opponents who generally (though not universally) enjoyed freedom to compete and had ready access to sporting facilities.

There are hundreds of achievers who haven’t found a place here. A few – like the great sprinters of the nineteenth century, Combardello Billy, Fred Kingsmill and R. R. (Bobby) Wililams – have been omitted for want of photographs or drawings or biographical detail. The voting panel decided that every effort should be made, first and foremost, to include people from earlier eras; people who were overlooked because we didn’t know about them, or there were doubts about their Aboriginality; or where biographical details were unavailable; or where a photograph or painting couldn’t be found. There are, of course, many successful current players whose achievements will be recognised in due course. The body of achievers is not final or finite and additions will be made over the years.

The majority of members are to be found in the ‘hungry’ or stadium sports, that is, the working class sports which did not require special entrance requirements, such as class or income.

Famous teams

Notable omissions from the Hall of Fame are famous teams. Placing teams in the hall of fame is too difficult. Some are notable for the consistency of their membership and for their successes; others are important because they illustrated the sole recreations permitted by missionaries and officials. Some were born out of discrimination; some were established in order to have interaction with the wider community; others were created to invigorate identity.

Hall of Fame members 1868 - 2008

Abbott, Desmond - Hockey
Ah Matt, Michael - Basketball
Allen, Willie - Australian football, shooting, soccer
Ambrum, George - Rugby league
Anderson, Sam - Cricket
Appo, Bob - Lawn bowls
Apoo, Leo - Woodchopping
Archer, Georgina - Hockey, vigoro
Austin, Ben - Swimming Paralympics
Austin, Laurence (Baby Cassius) - Boxing

Backo, Sam - Rugby league
Barney, Charmaine - Darts
Beetson, Arthur (Artie) OAM - Rugby league
Bennett, Elliott (Elley) - Boxing
Black, Lindsay - Roughriding
Blacklock, Nathan - Rugby league
Blair, Adrian - Boxing
Bowditch, Steve Mangiri - Squash
Bowman, Patrick - Athletics
Bracken, George - Boxing
Briscoe, Gordon AO - Soccer
Brown, Roger - Cricket
Burgoyne, Peter - Australian football
Burns, Donna - Basketball Paralympics
Butler, Scott - International basketball referee

Cable, Barry - Australian football
Callaghan, Jimmy - Horse racing
Campbell, Mabel - Cricket
Carr, Wally - Boxing
Chalker, May - Golf
Chapman, Tommy - Boxing
Choppy, Baeden - Hockey
Christian, Trevor AM - Boxing
Clark, Phynea - Hockey
Cochrane, Mal - Rugby league
Collins, Louisa - Basketball, soccer, hockey
Coombs, Kevin OAM - Wheelchair basketball Paralympics
Cooper, Lynch - Athletics
Cooper, Reuben - Australian football, cricket, athletics
Corowa, Larry MBE - Rugby league
Cowburn, Gary - Boxing
Cox, Rohanee - Basketball
Crawford, Justann - Boxing
Crouch, Edna - Cricket
Crouch, Glen (Paddy) - Rugby league
Currie, Anthony (Tony) - Rugby league
Cusack, Nicole - Netball
Cuzens, Johnny - Cricket

Daley, Laurie AM - Rugby league
Damaso, Rose - Basketball, netball, softball and hockey
Dancey, Tom - Athletics
de la Cruz, Bo - Touch football
Dempsey, William (Bill) MBE - Australian football
Dennis, Steve - Boxing
Devine, Bernie - Powerlifting
Donovan, Joseph (Joe) - Boxing, judging
Duncan, Leslie (Lance) - Judo
Dunn, Caremelita (Karmi) - Basketball, netball, softball and soccer
Dynevor, Jeffrey (Jeff) - Boxing

Edmundson, Leanne - Soccer
Edwards, Joanne (Jodi) - Powerlifting
Ella, Gary - Rugby union, coaching
Ella, Glen - Rugby union, coaching
Ella, Marcia OAM - Netball
Ella, Mark AM - Rugby union
Ella, Steve - Rugby league

Farmer, Graham (Polly) - Australian football
Farmer, Jeff - Australian football
Feifar, Karl - Athletics Paralympics
Ferguson, John (Chicka) - Rugby league
Finnan, Sharon OAM - Netball, coaching
Firebrace, Sharon - Volleyball
Fisher, Frank (Big Shot) - Rugby league
Foster (Wilson), Eileen - Darts
Frederiksen, Shane - Touch football
Freeman, Catherine (Cathy) OAM - Athetics

Geale, Daniel - Boxing
Gilbert, Eddie - Cricket
Gillespie, Jason - Cricket
Goodwin, Leigh-Anne - Horse racing
Goolagong-Cawley, Evonne AO MBE - Tennis
Graham, Michael - Australian football
Green, George - Rugby league

Hampton, Ivy - Darts
Hampton, Kenneth (Ken) OAM - Athletics
Hassen, Jack - Boxing
Hayden, Alec - Roughriding
Hayward, Maley - Australian football, athletics
Henry, Albert (Alec) - Cricket, athletics
Hinton, Rollo - Boxing
Hobson, Percy - Athletics
Hodges, Justin - Rugby league
Hunter, Donna - Softball, hockey, netball, basketball
Huntington, Felicity - Soccer

Inglis, Greg - Rugby league
Ivory, Frank - Rugby union

Jackson, Sydney (Syd) - Australian football
James, Des - Australian football
James, Glenn OAM - Australian football, umpire
Janssen, Kaylen - Soccer
Jerome, Jerry - Boxing, athletics
Johnson, Allen (Dick) - Rugby league
Johnson, Chris - Australian football
Johnson, Joe - Australian football
Johnson, Lindsay (Lin) - Rugby league
Johnson, Patrick - Athletics
Jonas, Billy - Showring riding

Kantilla, David - Australian football
Kickett, Dale - Australian football
Kickett, Derek - Australian football
Kilmurray, Ted (Square) - Australian football
King, Ian - Cricket, boxing
King, Shane - Softball
Kinnear, Robert (Bobby) - Athletics
Kinsella, John - Wrestling
Krakouer, Jim - Australian football
Krakouer, Phil - Australian football

Larkin, Steve - Hockey
Lawton, Warren - Goalball, athletics Paralympics
Leisputty, Joanne - Softball
Lew Fatt, Bennie - Australian football, basketball
Lew Fatt, Gympie - Australian football
Lew Fatt, Terry - Australian football, basketball
Lewis, Chris - Australian football
Liddiard, David - Rugby league, youth sport
Long, Michael - Australian football
Lovell, Greg - Woodchopping
Lyons, Cliff - Rugby league

Mansell, Brian - Cycling
Martin, Anthony - Weightlifting
Mason, Andrea - Netball
Matera Peter - Australian football
Maynard, Merv - Horse racing
McAdam, Gilbert - Australian football
McArthur, Wally - Rugby league, athletics
McCarthy, Richard (Darby) - Horse racing
McDermott, Lloyd - Rugby union
McDonald, Norm - Australian football, athletics
McDonald, Robert (Bobby) - Athletics
McGuire, John - Cricket, Australian football
McKellar, Kelly - Softball
McLean, Michael - Australian football, coaching
McLeod, Andrew - Australian football
Meninga, Mal AM - Rugby league
Menzies, Karen - Soccer
Michael, Stephen - Australian football
Mills, Patrick - Basketball
Morgan, Lionel - Rugby league
Moriarty, John AM - Soccer
Morrissey, Lorelle - Field hockey
Morseu, Danny - Basketball
Mullagh, Johnny - Cricket
Mullett (Drayton), Cheryl - Badminton
Mullett, Sandra - Badminton
Mundine, Anthony - Boxing, rugby league
Mundine, Anthony (Tony) OAM - Boxing, coaching
Musselwhite, Michelle - Basketball

Narkle, Phil - Australian football
Nicholls, Sir Douglas KCVO, OBE - Australian football, athletics
North, Jade - Soccer

O'Loughlin, Michael - Australian football
Olive, Bruce - Rugby league

Peachy, David - Rugby league
Peden, Robbie - Boxing
Peris, Nova OAM - Hockey, athletics
Perkins, Charlie AO - Soccer
Pickett, Byron - Australian football
Porter, Stacey - Softball

Ramalli, Cecil - Rugby union
Renouf, Steve - Rugby league
Reys, Frankie - Horse racing
Richards, Randell (Ron) - Boxing
Riley, Samantha OAM - Swimming
Rioli, Maurice - Australian football
Roberts, Brian - Boxing
Roberts, Frank - Boxing
Roe, Billy BEM - Australian football, basketball
Rose, Lionel MBE - Boxing

Saddler, Ron - Rugby league
Sailor, Wendell - Rugby league, rugby union
Samuels, Charlie - Athletics
Sands, Dave - Boxing
Schreiber, Adam - Squash
Scott, Colin - Rugby league
Seden, Horrie - Darts
Semmens, Dean - Water polo
Shearer, Dale - Rugby league
Simms, Eric - Rugby league
Sing, Matt - Rugby league
Sinn, Bobby - Boxing
Smith, Delma - Volleyball
St Albans, Peter - Horse racing
Starr, Bridgette - Soccer
Swan, James - Boxing

Tallis, Gordon - Rugby league
Thomas, Faith - Cricket
Thomas, Nathan - Water polo
Thompson, Hector - Boxing
Tutton, Mark - Volleyball
Tutton, Reg - Volleyball
Tutton, Steve - Volleyball, coaching
Twopenny (Murrumgunrrimin) - Cricket

Vander Kuyp, Kyle - Athletics

Waite, Billy - Showring riding
Walford, Ricky - Rugby league
Walker, Andrew - Rugby league, rugby union
Walker, Lloyd - Rugby union
Wandin, Robert (Bobby) - Athletics
Wanganeen, Gavin - Australian football
White, Darryl - Australian football
Williams, Claude - Basketball, coaching
Williams, Gary - Boxing
Williams, Harry - Soccer
Williams, Jim - Rugby union, coaching
Williams, Jimmy - Roughriding
Williams, RS (Bobby) - Boxing
Wilson, Fred (Mulga Fred) - Roughriding
Winmar, Neil (Nicky) - Australian football
Wirrpanda, David - Australian football

Buy the book Black Gold: The Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame
Last reviewed: 1 May 2017